“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”– Theodore Roosevelt
I am guessing readers are familiar with this oft quoted tidbit of wisdom from US President Theodore Roosevelt. It is a small part of a lengthy speech titled “Citizenship In A Republic” that he delivered in France in 1910. If you’ve read about his life, you will recognize a man who was an accomplished horseman and extremely gritty in a way that I never have been and never will be. So while I’m thinking President Roosevelt did not have my kind of life or my recent clinic experience in mind when he wrote it, I am still grabbing the spirit of the quote and running with it.
One can in fact argue whether taking two horses by oneself to a clinic fits the description of “daring greatly.” I will say that for me, it probably comes close. Sometimes I just have to gently laugh at myself. For all my equestrian ambitions, I have a tendency to not get as far as I would like.
In a post last week, I talked about my efforts to prepare my two horses for separating at clinics. I also mentioned how amazed I feel when I actually manage to arrive somewhere with my horses in tow considering all the obstacles that often present when I try to participate in horse events. I DID actually make it to my first clinic of the year. But instead of staying for the two day event as planned, I ended up staying about four hours.
After packing, hooking up the trailer, loading, driving to the clinic, unloading, unpacking, making a little staging area for my equipment and setting Bear and Shiloh up in their stalls (including lugging around the dreaded water buckets), it was time to take Shiloh to the arena. We started with groundwork. That portion ended up lasting longer than I anticipated. It was then I realized I wasn’t going to make it through the clinic.
All that time on my feet made my arthritis act up and set off a chain of pain across my body. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to walk properly if I kept pushing myself, so I made the choice to pack up at lunch time and head home.
Normally, I am able to schedule my daily activities so that I’m not in so much pain. When I’m pushed past a certain point, though, the pain unfortunately takes over. And apparently the beginning of the clinic experience was that point. You know the horse that is labeled as “limited use only” or “intermittently lame”? That’s me in human form.
I am obviously disappointed that I didn’t get my full money’s worth out of the experience. I didn’t even ride. I didn’t even snap one photo. Still, I had some important experiences that made me glad I at least gave the clinic a go:
- I drove my new trailer on the highway for the first time. Seemed to pull well at higher speeds even in the wind and rain.
- The horses loaded both times pretty smoothly, even in the rain for the drive home.
- At the clinic, there were about 12 horses in a fairly small indoor arena. Shiloh and I aren’t used to that excitement so it was needed exposure to a jazzier environment.
- Bear and Shiloh got some much needed practice separating. In a previous post I addressed my attempts at doing some practice on this issue, but as it turns out, the practice did not seem to apply well in this particular clinic situation as the horses behaviors were different than what I’d seen before. Bear (who doesn’t seem to mind my taking Shiloh away to ride at home or at the local indoor we frequent) started hollering as soon as I took Shiloh away from their adjoining clinic stalls. Then there was constant hollering back and forth between Bear and Shiloh for the first half-hour or so. Yes, I was that one person with the screaming horse (or in this case two horses) that seems to appear at every clinic. Shiloh wasn’t doing anything terrible, but he wasn’t really “there” with me either. His mind was on Bear. Shiloh was much quieter after the clinician did some groundwork with him- but it is something I’d like to develop for myself- that ability to draw Shiloh’s attention even if he is feeling insecure. My experience is that attending clinics can bring out the holes in your own horsemanship and your relationship with your horse. Holes that don’t show up when you work in the comparatively comfortable setting of your own backyard. Even just attending a few hours of the clinic proved that point. My horsemanship looks more like swiss cheese than solid cheddar.
- In the process of my unloading the horses at the clinic barn, another participant noted that I didn’t have the lead ropes tossed over the horses backs. At the time, I didn’t understand what that person meant, but it later occurred to me. In my old trailer with mangers, I had to untie the horses through the small feed door but am not tall enough to reach through and put the lead ropes over their backs. The lead ropes just dangled in front, and I reached out and caught the ends when the horses came off. With the new trailer, I have full doors on both sides. I must enter through one of them in order to untie (the look on Bear’s face the first time I appeared in front of him on that trailer was priceless. He probably wondered how I crawled up in there when I hadn’t done that to him in the ten years he traveled in the old trailer). I was so used to leaving the lead ropes dangling in front of the horses with the old trailer that it never occurred to me that I can now untie and place the lead ropes over their backs. So when we returned home, I made sure to untie and toss the leap ropes over before I asked them to back out so I can start a new habit. It is in fact easier and safer to grab the lead rope this way. Funny how you get in such a pattern that it doesn’t occur to you that adjustments could be made!
- Finally, we all traveled safely and managed to get to the clinic and home again in one piece. A simple thing perhaps. But not to be taken for granted.
Looking forward, my next multi-day clinic isn’t scheduled until the Summer. I need to make some adjustments, figure out some different way of doing things, maybe get some help along the way so I don’t exacerbate my chronic physical issues. But having horses in my life is too much of a gift to not continue to strive to do something with it. Even if it means performing my own version of Teddy Roosevelt’s failing while daring greatly.